What follows is a discussion
I am currently employed by a small Canadian university which gives me to observe the youth of today in some sort of natural environment. Lots of the kids have Canadian flags stitched on to their backpacks. Why didn't they take the flag off after returning from their travels? Laziness. And perhaps because it's a quiet way of saying 'I've traveled overseas'.
I got this university job just after a brief stint overseas and while over in England I was able to pick out the same students with their Canadian flags. That, to me, seems to be the only benefit of wearing a Maple Leaf. To let Canadians pick out other Canadians in a crowd. I honestly don't think anyone else really cares.
i do want opinionate strongly on something i read though - the whole canadian flag on the knapsack. Girlfriend, why is it so hard for you to imagine that university crowd leaves their flags on because they're patriotic? proud to be canadian? And, yes suppose it has that "i'm cool i traveled overseas" aspect, but still. i left mine on (well, it is sewed on pretty tightly). As for its purpose - maybe in England no one really cares about American/ Canadian, but in Central America it was tres extremely healthy to be visibly canadian and not american... as in, don't shoot me, i'm a friendly canadian! I come from a country with no military to speak of, so we're not messing with your business! And we never held colonial rule over you either! That flag is responsible for getting me easily past the belizean / Mexican border, even though i spoke no more spanish than to ask for the cheque or where the bathroom is. The guards spoke no English, but as soon as they saw the flag, it was "Si! Can-a-da!" and big smiles. Since they were carrying machineguns and other armaments, I was happy to see those smiles.
People all over the world like Canadians, We have good traveler's reputations, you know. i even know American backpackers who sewed Canadian flags on their bags because they found out that their friends with them got much friendlier reception. That would be my rant for the day, of which you are dubiously honoured to be the reader :)
Well, let me better iterate where my discomfort lies.
First, when I first heard about the Canadian flag practice it was in 1990 - grade nine music class. My music teacher was telling us that when the senior band toured Belgium they noticed that the folks there really opened up to Canadians - because Canadian forces during WWII died for their liberation. They really liked Canadians. (now, the yanks also died for the liberation of Europe but later in the game --- its funny how such details make so much difference.. but that's an aside)
So, while I am proud that so many Canadians gave up their lives for a noble cause, I feel hesitant to wear a flag and reap benefits from their glory. I think Canadians have a responsibility to live up to their example - through action, not through flag wearing. What have I done for Belgium lately?
And regarding Central and South America... the American government did horrible things down there and the people have every right to hold animosity. But what did Canada do? Did we stand up to the states? Did we liberate El Salvador? And I think of an imaginary girl from Ohio who travels to Central America and gets flack from the people. What did she do to deserve such treatment. She had no more control over her government than Central America had over theirs. Or did she? Any more than a girl from Ontario?
Another example, supposed the Chinese who are being displaced from the three rivers gorge decide to place all their anger towards Canadians. Now as a Canadian, I am opposed to what Cretein and the liberals are doing about the gorge. Such I have to suffer for their policy? And do you think that Canadians in that area would have flags on their backpacks?
Yes, you definitely have a good point. Wouldn't it be great if everyone treated looked at each individual as their own self, independent of where they're from and everything else? It would.
But a couple points here:
1. the average American tourist is extremely culture-centric... a by-product of their school system where they learn only about the US. I could give you a lot of examples from my travels. This is why american tourists have a terrible reputation. Part of it is due to bad things their "country" does, but in general lots of people have had bad run-ins with american tourists and become very wary of them.
2. When you're traveling alone, backpacking, putting a flag on your backpack is a great way to start conversation and make friends. Everyone will say "oh, you're from Canada?" and start in. And often they'll say, "Oh! I met this really cool guy named Joe Smith who lives in some town in Alberta - do you know him?" Needless to say - no. But they get all happy and treat you like the friend of a friend anyway. And on a personal level, if at this point you act like an obnoxious person, you'll get nowhere, but if you are a nice individual, its a great opening. Goods things follow. And no matter how you feel about the current prime minister, that doesn't change. And by being friendly, you build on the idea that Canadian tourists are nice people.. thereby benefiting the next set of canadian tourists that come along. No its not the most politically active action in the world, but kindness even on that level could change a lot if everyone practiced it.
You know, its interesting that I'm really supporting this 'cause I've never been one much for team spirit.... in high school, in university, i was never the cheering - for - the - football team type... even when i was a big blue jays fan i never wore any blue jays clothing or paraphernalia. I did wear those funky red shoelaces though - and that reminds me most about the canadian flag on the backpack thing - its a small cheery rah- home-team bit that people inevitably comment on. So yay for us!
I am not very po-po-mo (that's post-post modern to you, darlings) because I have a love of closure. So let me end this discussion (unless beth or someone wants to interject) by telling a little story that I think illustrates how Canadian flags can be well used.
I know this boy who has traveled the world and every time before leaving the Great White North he would visit his local Member of Parliament who as a matter of international goodwill gives little pins of the Canadian flag to Canadians traveling overseas. Then, during his travels to Taiwan and the like, if he met up with kind folks who helped him along his way or with families with children, he'd give out the pins. The kids would love it.
Yes, it can thought of as an act of diplomacy or even brand awareness, but all in all, it was still a good thing to do.